A look at book art

Posted in: Blog- Jul 25, 2014 Comments Off
Visual Art Review: Speaking volumes: A look at book art
By Victoria Crain (Arts Correspondent)
Carolyn Shattuck prepared a visual feast for me when she invited me to her studio. Color, shapes, patterns, who
A public artist’s reception will be held Friday from 6 to 8 p.m.
The array Shattuck showed me represented a retrospective of 10 years’ work starting with an arrangement called “He Stole My View,” a miniature stage set depicting her home by the sea, a lofty patio, and her neighbor’s enormous trees, planted specifically to obscure her view of his property and, apparently, his ocean.
If you haven’t looked at book art, Shattuck’s work will give you a good start. If you are a book lover, you will reach for them. If you admire art with the mark of the artist’s hand, Shattuck’s books will please you.
These pieces are three-dimensional ways of looking at ideas. More than sculpture, not books in the usual sense, Shattuck’s creations create visual narrative.
Some have words, but not all. Some are books whose pages turn. Others, though, unfold, expanding with variety and drama.
“Happiness III” opens into a carousel of images and words. The words reflect responses Shattuck’s family gave her when she polled them about happiness. The pages are covered in a subtle palette with vivid cutout paper explosions between them.
The companion book, “Necessary Losses,” features words and phrases about losses necessary for growth. These are elegant and moving books.
A flexagon is fascinating to consider, because it is a paper sculpture that you can turn inside out. Some flips of the book present a complete drawing. Another flip reveals parts of two complimentary designs. Playful, they invite exploration.
“The Urn Book” is a solemn reminder that we will die. Vividly white, incorporating Shattuck’s drawings that hark to primitive American tombstone art, the book sets up like a three-dimensional floor plan. Quiet and intense, “The Urn Book” reaches for the viewer, saying, “Consider me.”
“Triple Decker” presents an apartment building, with people and laundry hanging and color everywhere. You can imagine the noise here in this place.
And then there are the tunnel books. They are like looking into a many-roomed shadow box, each room’s design leading the eye to the subject at the deep end.
Shattuck’s book art is ingenious, meticulous and thoughtful. It is sometimes funny, sometimes filled with mourning. Of her inventive process, she says that her ideas ruminate in the backroom of her brain, organize themselves, and come to her complete: shape, color, materials and words simultaneously. Then she goes to work.
Collected by many, Shattuck’s books have places in the following collections: the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.; Mark Waskow’s The Waskomiun Collection in Burlington; IBM in Essex Junction; Penn State Freyberger Collection; Tyler Museum of Art in Tyler, Texas; and the University of Vermont Special Book Collections in Burlington.
If you come to the Castleton Downtown Gallery, you can read the books — but more likely, they’ll speak right up on their own.
Castleton Downtown presents the book art of Carolyn Shattuck, through Aug. 16, in Center Street Alley (between Paramount Theatre and Sunapee Bank) in Rutland. Hours: 1 to 6 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday; for information, call William Ramage, 468-1266, or email castletoncollegegalleries@gmail.com. An artist’s reception will be held Friday from 6 to 8 p.m.
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